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Syria: Violence prevents rescue of UN peacekeepers

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The peacekeepers were taken by the Martyrs of the Yarmouk Brigades, a rebel group. In the days leading up to the abduction, rebel fighters had overrun several Syrian military checkpoints in the area, and regime forces responded with shelling attacks.

Rebels initially said they would only release the hostages if Syrian forces withdraw from the area, but appear to have dropped the demand.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the group said a U.N. team was heading toward the area where the peacekeepers are being held.

He said a convoy of 12 vehicles — 10 from the U.N. and two from the International Committee of the Red Cross — reached the village of Ein Thakar, a few miles away, and was waiting for a lull in fighting to move ahead.

He said rebel commanders eventually decided that because of security concerns, it was easier to move the peacekeepers to the nearby Jordanian border. By mid-afternoon Saturday, the peaeckeepers had not yet been handed to Jordanian authorities, he said.

The report could not immediately be confirmed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said earlier Saturday that a gunfight had erupted about two miles south of Jamlah, as rebels tried to seize an army checkpoint.

At the United Nations, peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, on Friday urged regime forces to refrain from retaliation against the village if the U.N. troops are freed.

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